Leadership; The Essentials

Leadership; The Essentials

Leading from the front, understanding the sensitivity of the situation or just spearheading a campaign requires courage, openness of mind and the ability to inspire. A leader is an ordinary person like any other but what distinguishes him from the rest is his vision and mission for the greater cause. Whether it be a battlefield or business arena the winner is he who knows his opponents better than himself and also realizes his weaknesses. He is compassionate to his people, devoted to his duties and open to new challenges. His spirit is not dampened by failures, obstacles does not blur his vision and he just rides to the edge without giving up for fulfilling his aims.

Here are some quote on leadership;

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
(Lao Tzu)

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
(Steve Jobs quotes)

Leadership is action, not position.
(Donald H. McGannon quotes)
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Torrential Floods: A Wake up call

Torrential Floods: A Wake up call

I am saddened by the recent floods that have played havoc with the lives of the people, their property and just about everything that they possessed. One feels for the people who are affected left, right and center, and I am no exception. I strongly believe this is a wakeup call from God. He wants us to get our act together and do the good which we have been unable to do, for reasons that I don’t want to delve into.

On the same footing, Synergy has understood that much needs to be done in this regard. We have the required capacity and because of that we have made the resources available by contacting the relevant personnel and organizations. LKMWT, under the aegis of Synergy has started to play its role in the relief and rehabilitating processes for the flood affected individuals and families.

I have seen teenagers studying at expensive colleges collecting donations for flood victims at different places and traffic signals. I see this as an exercise in futility more than anything else.

As a nation we must treat this calamity as an indication informing us about the direction we are headed in. Now is the time to observe, think and act. Now is the time to paint a new future of your nation.

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Our values shape our destiny

Our values shape our destiny

We all have it within us to walk the extra mile, to rise beyond our expectations of ourselves, to not lose sight of our destination even when our eyes are blinded by the worst of storms and to swim against the tide no matter how strong the current is. All of this can be made possible by exploring the depths of our soul and finding the right direction every time we come to a standstill on a crossroad in life. Our values are what define us as humans, they determine the decisions we make under pressure in life and the course we choose in times of despair. When the journey of life becomes tough and hard to bear, it is our values that help us prove our mettle.

Shedding light on the power of human values, Ayn Rand, American Writer & Novelist says, “In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.

What are values? How do we define them? In simple words, we can define values as ethics, morals and principles that shape our code of conduct on a personal, organizational, religious and cultural level. It helps us navigate our life by using an established set of beliefs that helps us differentiate between the right and wrong and choose our actions likewise.

Only those of us can win the battle of life who stay true to the ethical and moral values that our conscience tells us is right. Everyday we have a choice to make, either we can move closer to our dreams by lying and cheating or by doing the right thing no matter how difficult the journey becomes. In the end, the real champion is the one who realizes his dreams by following the right path. Because when he gets what he wants by doing the right, he also wins inner peace and contentment that can never be achieved by giving up on the morals and values.

When I started my company back in 1999, I had a small team of people that were brought in to run the new venture with almost zero investment. We were struggling to barely survive in the market. That was one of the most trying phases of my life because the income was minimal while expenses had to be met at all costs. At that time, I had two choices; I could either take an easy way out at the expense of sacrificing my values to make quick money or fight the battle to the end to live my dream. I’m glad to have taken the second path because the pleasure of success achieved without falling from grace is far sweeter – today we have turned Synergy advertising into a Group of companies without compromising on principles.

Just as our values determine our altitude in our personal life, the values of an organization determine its long-term sustainability and growth. The challenge at the hand of any organization is to develop a corporate culture that creates a bridge between employees’ personal values and the organizational values. To make this possible, the organizational values need to be stated clearly and communicated to all employees time and again in a way that motivates them to give their best to their work.

Synergy – not just a name but a whole philosophy of life. The values we derive are not merely text but lessons learnt from life. All that I had learned from my experiences in life, I wanted them to become a part of the values of my organization because I believe these values have the power to form strong foundations for the company and employees to achieve greater heights and to face the most difficult of challenges with courage and dignity. To create a guiding force for my team, we came up with six core values:

  • Client-Centrism – The interests and the needs of the client are paramount. The biggest sin committed by most advertising agencies is to ignore the needs and requirements of their clients. To be able to serve clients in a most effective way, we need to become guardians of their brands. The key to successful business lies in open and clear communication that leads to delivering best possible, customized solutions to clients. A case in point for us is Silk Soap. When we signed up with Silk Soap as our client, it was an unknown brand. They had limited budgets, but that did not limit our thinking as we were focused on end results. The success of Silk brand can be gauged from the multiple creative awards it won in recognition

    for achieving a high brand value. Our biggest honour was when Silk Soap became the only Pakistani brand to win the coveted Abby award in India.

  • Synergy – Collaboration and teamwork at every level of the organization reaps superior results. We live in an age of high interdependence that demands everyone to pitch in with their expertise. Moreover, in advertising, interdepartmental collaboration is highly important. High conflict of opinion has always existed between Account Management and Creative departments due to divergent perspectives. As a team leader, my goal is to encourage harmony between all the departments and remind all my employees that we all rely on each other to achieve overall organizational goals as a team.
  • Empowerment – Autonomous decision-making at all hierarchies creates a more rewarding organization. When people know that they have control over their actions then they can figure out how to channelize their energy in the right direction. Through this knowledge, they can use their authority for the benefit of organization. I personally appreciate those people in my organization who are willing to take initiative on their own. I am of a strong opinion that empowerment is the key to foster openness of minds, develop new opportunities and have a greater vision. Leadership Empowerment Committee (LEC) was formed in Synergy with the sole purpose of giving a voice and ownership to employees. The idea was to identify talent and let them find practical solutions through active participation.
  • Responsibility – With empowerment exists the need for accountability at all organizational levels. Responsibility is an attitude of getting the job done. Once a person really takes the responsibility of doing a task he puts all his efforts in it and focuses towards solutions rather than giving excuses. Taking responsibility means making sure a job is done well; it requires determination, commitment and delivery.
  • Integrity – Ethics and Integrity should be the hallmark of all activities. Integrity is an important part of self-evaluation. Someone who has integrity would always show a serious attitude towards work with the best interests of his organization at heart. He would work just as diligently at all times whether he’s being checked upon or not. Managers have a huge responsibility in this regard; if they expect integrity from their subordinates they need to first become role models for them and inspire them to work with honesty and conscience.
  • Equality & Fairness – In all activities and interactions merit and justice must form the foundation. Equality involves overcoming the biases that may exist in an organization on the basis of social status, gender, culture and religion. It is important to maintain a neutral working relationship with everyone and treat everyone with equal amount of respect. Maintaining a fair practice with all employees is equal to telling everyone that no one is above the established principles. That’s why in Synergy, an employee’s progress isn’t dependent on bootlicking but is rather based on merit and hard work.

The long-standing values have always been and will be a source of guidance for my team and me. It is through these values that we have successfully completed 10 years in advertising industry and made it through a myriad of ups and downs in the process. Every time we fell short of performance, we learned from our mistakes by referring to these values that gave us the strength. I know that there are many hurdles still to be crossed and milestones to be achieved for Synergy. And I’m most certain that through these binding values, we would continue to move forward towards higher altitude because for us in Synergy sky is not the limit; it’s just the beginning!

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Invaluable lessons from sport

Invaluable lessons from sport

Someone has rightly said, “Sport strips away personality, letting the white bone of character shine through. Sport gives players an opportunity to know and test themselves.”

Passion for the game you love is the key difference between an ordinary and extraordinary player. Those who play for the love of the game are motivated by the sheer pleasure they get from every moment that they spend in playing the game they love. They care more for the game and for their team rather than the material rewards attached to winning, every time they win they make a vow to play even better and every time they lose they humbly learn from their mistakes as a team. True glory belongs rightfully to those who play for a dream and prove to everyone that if you put your heart and soul to something, you end up achieving it no matter how impossible it may seem to the rest of the world.

Cricket is one game all Pakistanis feel a great affinity towards. I’m one of them too. Being an ardent cricket fan, I have been playing cricket for the longest time I can remember not because I harbor a secret dream in my heart to become a cricketer one day but because just playing the game has taught me so much; has helped me to improve and develop in many ways and even apply the lessons learned to my company and my team. I have to admit what I have learned from playing cricket has given me the strength to overcome many obstacles in my personal as well as professional life.

Like all Pakistani cricket fans, one of my fondest memories of Pakistani team is the feat of World Cup 1992. Tripping into that memory lane reminds me of being obsessed with ‘who rules the world’ song, being glued to the TV for endless hours, with racing hearts hoping that Javed Miandad would strike a six at the next ball and screaming with joy every time Pakistan moved closer to victory. To the world, it was an unforgettable achievement that will never be forgotten but to me it was a bundle of invaluable lessons that inspired me to the core of my soul and changed my life forever. Everyone knows that it was not the best Pakistani team but with intelligent leadership and team spirit Pakistani cricket team successfully rose to the top.

Here are some of the useful lessons I learned from our team’s performance during the World Cup 1992:

Lesson #1: Creating Synergy

Team collaboration is a must for an out-class performance in the game. I’m a firm believer in the power of synergy. That’s the reason why I named my company Synergy. The whole point of calling it Synergy is that my team and I believe in working together and using the best of our talents to create innovative and enduring ideas. As a team player, my constant effort is to recognize strengths of each of my team members and assign to them clearly defined roles and responsibilities so that they can make their maximum contribution towards the company’s growth.

Lesson #2: Team Motivation

Team motivation can be gauged from the body language of the players. From time to time, we all need to know how we are doing and whether we are on the right track or not. When a team leader makes it a point to appreciate his team when need be, his team works with greater zeal and devotion. Whenever any one of my employees does a splendid job, I make it news. That doesn’t only set high standards for the team but also keeps every one more focused towards the goal and at the same time fosters healthy competition in corporate culture.

Lesson #3: Planning it well

Every match won has a well-thought out strategy behind it. A classic mistake that a team captain makes sometimes is sticking to the same plan throughout even when he can see that it is not bearing the required results. A smart captain always keeps back-up plans in hand to adjust his stance when the situation becomes uncertain. Maneuvering around the situation desires flexibility in planning and a whole lot of patience. Aggressively pursuing the initial plan without considering the dynamic external factors doesn’t always work best.

Lesson #4: Pulling through the business pressure

When everything goes according to the plan, we tend to over-aim at times setting more aggressive targets for ourselves and our team. Sometimes the team is able to achieve the set targets but most of the time over-ambitious goals lead to much frustration and loss of focus among team players. When things seem to fall apart and targets aren’t met, it requires great patience and poise to go back to the basics and make the small things right. Basics can never be compromised upon to achieve higher goals because basics are the foundation upon which you build your organization’s culture. If the basics are weak, a team can’t go far. In the long-run, it is the basic values of a team that determines their altitude. Every time Synergy Group’s growth was clogged by big-over-ambitious goals, I went back to basics reconsidering things like how the client was being treated? Is there a problem in the way we are communicating internally and externally? That’s what played the trick for me and helped me put Synergy Group back on track.

Lesson #5: Conflict Management

No one can guarantee there will be no conflicts in a team. When people having diametrically opposite personalities come to work together, difference of opinion is bound to surface. One of the key traits of a good leader is conflict management. To resolve conflicts, a leader has to encourage open communication and make his team members understand that it’s ok to have differences but other people’s opinions must be respected at all costs and listening to each other can solve most conflicts. Most importantly when you play a game, you play for the team, for a common purpose and not for individual goals.

Lesson #6: Walk the talk

Being a team leader is not just about giving orders day in and day out. An effective leader earns the respect of his fellows by being a role model for them. He doesn’t have to force his orders upon his team. Rather the charisma of his personality inspires them to follow his footsteps and trust his judgment. It takes conscientiousness, discipline and integrity of character to make a great leader and be a source of inspiration for your team every single day. It is the strength of the leader’s character that bridges gaps between a team and creates binding synergy to move together towards success.

Winning and losing is part of every game. If you lose, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the potential to be a champion it just gives you a chance to learn from the mistakes you made and not repeat them again. The key lies in never giving up. For me, sport is an ideology in itself. Many of us watch or play sports to entertain ourselves. If only we ponder a little over the spirit of the game, it opens a whole new world of possibilities to us; it shows us that it is within our power to rise above and realize our dream against all odds.

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In Quest of Happiness

In Quest of Happiness

This article was printed in Newsline, dated May 2002.

S. M. Shahid provides a poignant insight into the “intensely emotional” man behind the legend.

Latif Kapadia – banker, stage, TV actor, singer – and above all, a good friend. Let me tell you about just one aspect of his personality – his quest for happiness.

Our friendship spanned over half a century and in all these years I have not know another man who was so persistently looking for an excuse to enjoy life and be happy. This deliberate quest for happiness naturally brought frustration in its wake, since life is not all about happiness. One of the pitfalls is, it has to be lived with other people!

I have a feeling that in chasing happiness, Latif tired himself out. He was an intensely emotional person and his agonies stemmed from his strong aspiration for peaceful coexistence a man, shanti, dosti. This “flaw” in his nature must have been the reason for his frequent fights with people. How dare the world not go along with him! How dare people not cooperate with him in making an effort to be happy!

His other obsession was with hypocrisy. Not only had he no patience with people whom he thought were hypocrites, he looked for signs of hypocrisy in his friends and was most of the time looking for trouble. I remember an incident at my house when he shot an abrupt question at me at the dining table: “Do you believe in God?” I kept quiet and he repeated the question. “this is a personal matter and I do not want to discuss it,” I said, Nothing would infuriate Latif more than a diplomatic response, My answer came in the category of hypocrisy and it was enough to make him explode: “You bloody hypocrite! You don’t have the courage to tell the truth!” This was Latif.

But his rage would pass in no time and he would try to make amends: “Abey yar, main to tuje se ek baat pocch raha tha… main dost hoon, muje se to such baat bata dia kar?”
His motto in life was “zindagi mein maza aana chaaahiyay.”

At times his search for happiness was only skin-deep, but most of the time he was looking for truth, love and sincerity, We all look for these blessings, but we know how to live with the bitter truth that true friendship, love and sincerity are not easy to find and one should learn to be happy even in their absence.

Latif’s thirst for happiness was never quenched. He looked for it in old friendships, in creating new bonds with strange characters and he looked for it in the words of a song by K.I Saigal:

“Ek bangle banay niyara”
Rahe kumba us men sara”

Latif loved to sing this song and when he sang it, his ecstasy was something to be seen.

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A Father’s Legacy

A Father’s Legacy

Memories By: Ahmed Hussain Kapadia

Latif Kapadia’s son, Ahmed Hussain, shares personal recollections of a man “larger than life.”

Latif Kapadia, my father, was larger than life, a man who was a national figure, a face familiar on any street of Pakistan. Having said that, I would add that he was my father before anything else. On the surface he appeared aggressive, secular, open-minded and an extrovert; on the inside, he was just like any other sensitive artist who wanted appreciation for his remarkable artistic qualities.

My first distinct childhood memory is of myself suffering from high fever with abba’s picture in my hand, waiting for him to come home. As usual, Abba was at the TV station, busy with one of his many rehearsals. My last memory of my father is more or less the same. It was the 28th of March, and I waited for him for lunch at home, a daily ritual. Little did I know that he was busy with the last recording of his life, for Anwar Maqsood’s play. I never met Abba again, for he died early Friday morning, March 29, 2002, two days after completing his 68th year.

It would be unfair for me to comment on his acting capabilities because for one, he was my father. Therefore, whatever I say would be biased and secondly, I am neither a critic nor an expert on the dramatic arts. Having said that, there was a time when he did ‘phir bhi hum jeetay rahey’ a stage play by Zia Sarhady, after which I proudly admitted to my school maters that Latif Kapadia was really my father. Until that time, I had never taken him seriously as an actor. I always thought acting was just a passion for him, a part-time persuasion. Watching him in the company of Talat Hussain, Naheed Siddiqui, Mehmood Masood and other leading actors, yet holding his own, convinced me that he was a great actor.

As a father, Abba was different! So what if he never demanded to see my report card after class 7, although I was the only son after four sisters, never put a curfew on my staying out late, never tried to understand my obsession with cricket, never asked me how I completed my MBA and not once inquired about why I switched jobs or resigned. The one thing he would always complain about was that I chose to study and work at the same time. One of abba’s sayings that will remain etched in my mind forever is “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” The result of all this produced a son like myself who, although independent, realized the need of interdependence because it was my father who laid the basic foundation that kept me so upright and made me what I am without any sermons and lectures at any point in my life.
Abba’s like, I feel, was more cryptic than I realized. He taught me without teaching and his anguish took the form of humor. His humor touched people, making life an interesting place to be. With abba, life was never mediocre or superficial. I know this for sure and there are enough people who will readily vouch for it. My many sittings with Abba at the time seemed no more than ordinary chit chat and there was no shortage of subjects with him, but little did I know what wisdom or values were being handed over.
In life, you need a perfect balance between friends you can depend on and having the strength to make independent decisions. All I can say is Alhamdolillah, for I had a father who was Latif Kapadia.

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Of half baked truths’ Blatant lies and lack of respect

Of half baked truths’ Blatant lies and lack of respect

By Ahmed Kapadia

Truth is relative term in the world that we live in. These days I spend a lot a of time in front of the TV watching Israeli (“innocent victims of terrorism”) futilely carpet bomb “Islamic Fascists” in Lebanon in to submission. The worst part is that the bastions of credibility in our world, the BBCs and the CNNs who “put news first”, all sound like apologists, even mouthpieces, justifying what was essentially a one sided war.

Sick of it all, I flipped the channel and saw Fox News, “Home of American Journalism – Balanced and Fair”, break out into a tirade of how “I-ran” under an increasingly bellicose president Ahmedinejad is the latest threat to the pace loving world and is responsible for everything ranging from armed Hezbollah perpetuating the poor Israeli military action in Lebanon to the outbreak of the bubonic plague and the eruption of the Vesuvius. It seems everyone has taken the US’ worldview and version of events.
No one has bothered to delve deeper into the matter and report credibly because the truth may not be what fits in their grand scheme of things. The truth is that Iran under its obligations as a signatory to the NPT (Non proliferation Treaty) is authorized to do everything that it is doing, including its enrichment activities. The fact that so far no sanctions have been imposed on Iran is a corollary of the fact that there is no legal basis for it in international law. The Americans feel Iran should not enrich uranium simply because the don’t trust them. Apart from American discomfort, there is not much else driving the international crisis and the media is playing it up for all it’s worth.

Well, none of this should surprise any of us. The fact is that today, Israel and the West are innocent victims of terrorism while Muslims are collateral damage who regrettably but inadvertently get in the firing line. The fact is that Australia did not and will not accept asylum seekers but expects Jordan to indigenize 2.5 million Palestinian refugees with one-twentieth the land size and one- millionth the economic wealth. But such is the world that we live in today, like all malleable commodities truth is also molded to echo our unique point of view. The core axiom seems to be: “If you hammer lies long enough and to as many people as possible it’ll become the truth”. By present day American standards on terrorism, every one from Osama Bin Laden to the celebrated Anti-Nazis and even America’s founding father George Washington is a terrorist but somehow only Mr. O.B Laden seems to come to mind when thinking of ‘Terror 101.’

Some say advertising is also Like that simply because it create or tingles the darker side of human urges, insecurities and complexes to get people to take action (i.e. “buy things they don’t need”) in order to realize profits for someone else. I firmly disagree. Advertising in principle Is all about choice and exercising it. It represents a microcosm of the world in which we live in, it doesn’t invent anything, and it simply tells you what exists and how it can affect your life. But then again.. As I write this, I probably sound as bad as CNN or BBC window-dressing Israeli military action into “self defense”.

Truth be told … and I mean “truth” in all sincerity of the word, the fact is that advertising is all about choices, but like all other information dissemination mediums in the world, it is how information is packaged, processed and presented that makes all the difference.

Advertising is indeed about helping your customers make choices. However, like everything else, advertising has also become more about harping constantly about badly packaged, half-baked truths and in some cases even outright lies in pursuit of profit. But therein lies our fault – people like myself who profess to practice the profession of advertising and the clients who initiate brand communication along with the media that carries it through to a large enough number of people, make it become gospel truth.

However, there is a funny thing about truth, try morphing truth into something that it is not and you end up in a funny situation where you don’t make sense, don’t sound credible and start being called a liar, stupid and a whole assortment of names that you could really do without- Advertising has become something like that as well. Around the world, advertising is going through a crisis of credibility and in a nation of naturalised cynics like Pakistan; any advertising communication is now taken with a bucket as opposed to a pinch of salt.

Sound cruel, especially coming from an ad man, but that is the sad truth that we live with. These are indeed sad times, however on closer inspection, can the consumer be blamed? In a market where one of the largest ice cream companies (which legally cannot even call itself an ice cream) created an ad extolling the virtues of its latest product, telling kids to eat milk instead of drinking it. While I am not claiming that the good company may be lying (perish the thought!) however, there is something wrong with the way the proposition is phrased; Kids around the world still drink milk which most of them hate and eat ice cream which most of them love … the fact is that if there was such an intense breakthrough, kids around the world would have inundated ice cream stores for milk substitute ice cream.

This is perhaps the latest and amongst the growing number of brands that are perhaps over promising, not unlike the news channels discussed above who claim to put news first but then have blatantly one sided views on news. Today, if advertising is fighting a battle to win back lost credibility, it is a crisis largely of its own making. This state of affairs stems largely from advertising drifting away from proof of claim and claim support areas that should be cardinal concerns in brand communication.
Today an increasing number of brands are pushing the envelope in the name of creativity by overplaying hyperbole to a point where the brand is over-promising which is simply not sustainable. In an increasingly competitive ‘brandscape’ , advertising is not just about making choices but rather about making the right choices. Advertising must believe in what it says and that can only happen when it speaks the truth. Being creative is about making advertising memorable, not about making the product seem something that it is not.

If one was to define the core problem plaguing truth or the lack thereof in advertising in a nutshell, it is that brands today lack respect. Yes while I may sound like a disdainful parent, this is the core problem and nothing more.

As a first step, honest brands are made when their custodians are law-abiding: hence brands need to respect the law. Today, the media, the agency and the clients are all at odds working against and contrary to each other’s interests. The fact is that there are enough rules of conduct, principles and pieces of legislation about rules governing the working of advertising. However none of us, the client, the agency and the media, know them apart from the ones that either protect the rights of ourselves or circumvent the rights of others.

The standard excuse is that advertising legislation is archaic and holds back creativity. That may be true, but laws, however draconian, do contribute towards disciplining society, in this case, they make brands conform to some standards as law-abiding citizens and help them avoid mud slinging. Laws if antiquated and out of sync with modern realities need to be changed. This will be done by the custodians of the brand communication value chain: the media who will transmit it to the masses, the clients who have invested billions into government coffers in tax revenue and the agency whose design makes the other two profitable. The state will have to listen. The answer is more proactive legislation that makes brands conform to the truth and honest conduct as opposed to the ignorance of non enforceable laws that has resulted in a free for all on an increasingly flawed regulatory brand communication scene. Only law-abiding brands will be honest brands, it is that simple.

This lack of respect for the law is further compounded by a lack of respect for the consumer. Today, more and more brands are accused of not knowing their consumer. Brand critics credit the lack of research for the resultant brand blindness and brand managers and advertising agencies cry foul over the lack of budgets to initiate research. While I am not trying to underscore the boon that is consumer research, but until we get the resource commitment levels for it, brands can start off by crediting their consumers with some intelligence. Respect your consumer with the intelligence to understand brand communication that has more subtlety and finesse than a raging tornado. Today, most brands will lament the unimaginative glut of Pakistani advertising but will not take the risk of going with an imaginative solution to a brand communication need, since “their customers will not get it”.

The newsflash is that the Pakistani consumer is smarter than you would think and that is something you don’t need research to prove. Today the Pakistani consumer is exposed to over 200 channels that are beaming advertising and product content from around the world. The markets are flooded with grey market products which are selling like hot cakes. This shows that all that is new, different and uniquely propositioned honestly will find takers in a market of a 150 million people. There are brands which have walked that long road and have succeeded – no one needed to tell PSO (Pakistan State Oil) that they needed a face lift, but when they did, the public appreciated them for it. Around the country, Tapal, Ufone (albeit only in its embryonic stage) came up face to face with established competition and kicked ass. The message was loud and clear- makes a product, a good one and speaks about it honestly, chances are you are going to do well. Today, brands ranging from Nirala to Chen One are seizing the initiative and going global in the process and some brands like Ufone unfortunately seem to be losing their magic by confusing what they mean and to whom. In short, respect your consumer and you stand to be rewarded. Try patronizing them as imbeciles and chances are your brand will never be.

A chronic lack of respect for everyone involved in the brand value chain is perhaps the greatest bane of creative advertising in our scenario. Today in the brand value chain, everyone is out for everyone else’s throat. The agency, the client and the media while all interdependent on each other are ceaselessly trying to cut out the weakest link in the brand communication value chain. This lack of respect is a subject that I have written on voluminously and in the interest of avoiding loquaciousness will refrain from at present. The essence is that until the advertising value chain learns to respect each link, it will remain stunted in outlook and crippled in terms of honest, imaginative and memorable communication.

Brand managers more concerned with the agency’s purview are not paying attention to other areas of their domain, the most important of which is the implication of advertising on the bottom line, which is something that they have surrendered to the sales guy. The media trying to cut the agency out of the deal by directly going to the client should realize that once the agency is out, the natural course of action for clients would be to drive down media insertion costs. Lastly, for the agencies that are my breed, we need to collectively wake up and smell the coffee. The advertising profession has no respect simply because we demand it not command it with our action . Respect your clients and the media as equal partners and consistently perform for eons before you can expect tangible change. Reform is long road, but one that must be walked. Commit yourself to progressive change and then live up to your high ideals.

Last we all need to respect ourselves just a little more and be honest in what we do. Admit to our faults and introspect to a point where we seek the help of others whether we are clients, agency or media, Till we don’t do that we will continue to play the blame game and live in denial about what our faults are and more importantly, what we can do to make things better. In other words, in a world of hammered lies and malleable truths, we’ll just end up as collateral damage.

The writer is the managing director of Synergy Advertising.

Box Matter (1)
Advertising is indeed about helping your customers make choices. However, like everything else, advertising has also become more about harping constantly about badly packaged, half-baked truths and in some cases even outright lies in pursuit of profit. But therein lies our fault – people like myself who profess to practice the profession of advertising and the clients who initiate brand communication along with the media that carries it through to a large enough number of people, make it become gospel truth.

Matter in Box (2)
Today, the media, the agency and the clients are all at odds working against and contrary to each other’s interests. The fact is that there are enough rules of conduct, principles and pieces of legislation about rules governing the working of advertising. However none of us, the client, the agency and the media, know them apart from the ones that either protect the rights of ourselves or circumvent the rights of others.

Matter in Box (3)
Advertising has become something like that as well. Around the world, advertising is going through a crisis of credibility and in a nation of naturalised cynics like Pakistan, any advertising communication is now taken with a bucket as opposed to a pinch of salt. Sound cruel, especially coming from an ad man, but that is the sad truth that we live with. These are indeed sad times, however on closer inspection, can the consumer be blamed?

There are brands which have walked that long road and have succeeded— no one needed to tell PSO (Pakistan State Oil) that they needed a face lift, but when they did, the public appreciated them for it. Around the country, Tapal, Ufone (albeit only in its embryonic stage) came up face to face with established competition and kicked ass.

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Remembering Latif on a personal note

By S.M. Shahid

I was once asked by a journalist friend to write the obituary of a famous artist. “But he is alive!” I said.

“Indeed he is. But he is very ill. We generally keep obituaries of famous people ready just in case… you know what I mean… one should avoid last minute embarrassment….”

Getting a cue from the above and in a moment of light heartedness I suggested to my journalist friend: “You, Latif Kapadia and I are in the same age group and vulnerable in equal measure. What about our obituaries?”

“Good idea!” my friend said.

“But let’s not leave it to others. We can write our own obituaries, can’t we? I can write yours, you will perhaps write Latif’s.”

“Who will write mine?” I asked.

Needless to say, none of us took the matter seriously and forgot all about it.

Today, Friday, March 29 — Latif is the one to go first. Smart guy. He died early that morning. Only the previous evening, he was recording an Anwar Maqsood play on Ghalib. He lost his breath during the recording but refused to heed Anwar’s advice to go home and take rest. Instead, he asked Moin Akhtar to take him to Liaquat National Hospital across the road so that he may get himself “recharged” with some oxygen. At the hospital he was given oxygen and as soon as he had regained his breath he returned to the set to finish the scene.

I have just come back from Mewa Shah Qabristan after burying my friend. As the slabs were placed on the grave and Latif was never to be seen again by anyone except the angels, people present there were asked: “Aaeeaye hazraat, mitti deejiaye!” I too stepped forward and threw some earth on his grave, and as I wiped my hands with a handkerchief, I could hear Latif say: “Chalo, ye kaam bhi hua!”

He had his pet expression for every occasion and I am sure he always meant what he said. Raising his glass he would never forget to shout: “Hail Hitler! Jiye Bhutto!” His message to the world was clear: “Sanbhalnay ka hai. Jamana bara najuk hai, kya.” His affection for his children was reflected in the suffixes he added to their names: Jamila was Jamila Bano, Ruby was Ruby Jones, son Ahmad Husain was Qibla Ahmad Hussain Kapadia. His old friend Mushtaq Ali Khan was Barbad Ali Khan. (Incidentally, Mushtaq too passed away a month ago and informing me about his death, Latif said: “Yar, Barbad mar geya!”)

The Kapadia family is an unassuming and loving family. In this family there is no place for ego or hypocrisy — and the lack of craving for money and power makes them a delightful bunch of people. In some ways Latif was different from his eight brothers (four of them are no more in this world now) since no one could beat him in exuberance and an unending quest for excitement in life. Even as a small boy he would keep jumping and dancing on one leg, prompting his grandmother to remark to his father: “You will see he will work in a Natak company one day.” Prophetic words. Adventure ran in his blood. At the age of 14 he ran away with a friend to Lahore to join the filmi dunya. They called on Madame Noorjehan who discouraged the boys and advised them to return home at once.

My friendship with Latif goes back half a century. It was on the stairs of Aimai House on Victoria Road that we first met. I was with Barbad Ali Khan and Latif was with Safirullah Lehri. We became friends instantly. Those were carefree days. Lehri and Latif would

present skits on stage and Latif would also sing the songs of Pankaj, Jugmohan and Hemant in his deep, melodious voice. He was a good singer but he never took his singing seriously.

The high points of a relationship spread over five decades can not be recalled coherently. It is 1980. After an exciting New Year in Bombay, Latif takes us to Abrahma, small village in Indian Gujrat where he was born. We take the train from Bombay and it is raining and Latif is singing: Jug mein chalay pawan ki chal. The four-hour journey takes us to Amalsad from where we ride a bus to Abrahma. Walking through the narrow lanes we pass by a lake. Latif’s wife Amna shows us the place by the bank where she along with her friends Ratna, Madhuri and Shanti used to go to wash clothes. She also points to the big banyan tree under which Latif’s mother is buried. “I am looking at this tree after 30 years,” says Latif. At home, Latif’s mother-in-law tells us: “They were kids when they got married and left for Pakistan.” The following day we leave for Krishnapur and are struck by the sight of the long line of village damsels in their multi-coloured saris and glittering brass vessels balancing on their heads, going to the river to fetch water.

We reach Dharampur in the evening and hire a bullock cart to go to Jharia, a small village in the jungle. We are greeted by the 80-year-old housekeeper, Rahmli Bai who walks briskly in front of us holding a lantern, showing us the way to the house that is surrounded by jungles. A bonfire is lit in the courtyard and the village people are gathered around the fire, and the young girls and boys begin to dance and Latif joins them and keeps a sprightly rhythm till everyone is exhausted…

And I am thinking of those music parties in our Gulshan-i- Iqbal home…and his late night visits with Masood Haider and Zafar Masood and Kamal Ahmad Rizvi… Latif had never learnt music formally but his sensitivity for it and understanding of the subject was remarkable.

Time may be a great healer but it inflicts more wounds than it can heal. In the last few years Latif was no more the youthful, smart, mercurial man that he was. He had become a museum of illness and had surrounded himself with all kinds of medicines — unani, homeopathic and what not. While he was very particular about visiting his doctors, he was not ready to alter his lifestyle. His indulgences remained unchanged and at times I could notice a suicidal streak in his behaviour. Being an optimist he still talked of celebrating his 70th birthday, or 52nd wedding anniversary, but the way he bowed out of the stage this morning makes me think that he had decided it was time to call it a day… and I can hear him say: Chalo bhai chalo, buhut ho geya!

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